Young Men and Fire

In the Wall Street Journal, Adam Savage reviews William Gurstelle's The Practical Pyromaniac. Gurstelle is also the author of Backyard Ballistics.

Key bit:

"I took my boys camping last summer. We drove a hair-raising set of muddy cliffside roads to a secluded campground in the middle of nowhere. We lit a fire and ate mediocre food and slept in a soggy tent and woke up in a puddle. What do they remember from that trip? The fire. Only the fire. All the sticks they burned in it. Watching it change as the evening wore on. Getting close and burning new things. Their fascination with our firepit is the foundation of all scientific discovery. This is, I believe, Mr. Gurstelle's point, and he has explored it admirably."

I think that fire -- and fireworks -- also are important because they give young people an experience of dealing with something dangerous at close hand, which in modern life isn't common enough. Injuries are (usually) minor, but lessons are lifelong.